ROAD TO PERDITION: THE MOVIE
I reviewed the graphic novel here not that long ago. I loved the book, and looked forward to the movie. I finally saw the movie this week and liked it a lot. It's not without its faults. Some of the deviations from the book are to its detriment. Still, it's well worth watching and enjoying.
The big question for me about the movies was one of adaptation. The graphic novel is great, but I don't think for a second if you shot everything that was on the page, you'd have a great (or long enough) movie. Some stuff was going to be added, for sure.
In the past couple of weeks, I've read through two William Goldman books. The first is ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, and the second is its sequel, WHICH LIE DID I TELL?. Goldman is a screenwriter with a lot of experience in adapting novels to the silver screen. He talks a lot in the two books about the problems with writing screen adaptations. After reading the two books, I know I'll never complain again about the lack of faithfulness any movie bears to the source material. It's not possible to be 100% faithful, and for good reason. Each medium has its own rules and quirks. What works written down in prose on paper won't necessarily work on the big screen, or even the small screen, or a radio play, or a comic book. Even Douglas Adams modified the story of THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY each time he modified it to a different form. (Should that movie ever get made, I imagine it'll be a new vision of the same story we've been laughing at for two decades.)
In considering ROAD TO PERDITION, I had to keep it straight in my head that it won't be the same as the book. Since I read the book a few weeks ago, it wasn't that difficult. I had already forgotten most of the book, but retained memory for certain moments and themes. Most of those moments and those themes showed up in the movie. I'm happy. It doesn't bother me at all that the lead character went from being "O'Sullivan" to just plain "Sullivan," or that his boss' name changed from "Looney" to "Rooney." It's not important in the long run.
ROAD TO PERDITION is a movie that the critics -- the ones whose reviews I've read -- got right. It's a smart production. It's beautifully shot. The screenplay is solid, if not spectacular. The acting is great, and Paul Newman deserves an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor for it. There is, however, a certain disconnect between the story and the viewer. Hanks' lead character, Michael Sullivan, isn't easy to adopt as a character we want to root for and who we live and die by. He remains slightly aloof. He warms up a bit near the end, but even then he's still a bit too mysterious and enigmatic. The movie also wavers a little bit early on in finding its feet and what exactly it wants to be. By the time we start caring for Sullivan, it might already be too late.
Sullivan's also toned down from the graphic novel. In print, he's an expert gunman, capable of heroic acts, shooting down multiple people in the same room in the blink of an eye. The phrase "Angel of Death" is used often and shown repeatedly. In the movie, he manages to kill two people in a room, but that's about it. He's not a driving force. He's downgraded to a good hitman. I wonder if I don't hold onto that too much because it links it back to LONE WOLF AND CUB in my mind. If you've never read LONE WOLF, this character change might seem minor. If you have read it, part of the linkage disappears.
Parts of the book were noticeably absent in the film. The most memorable is the removal of the gambling boat scene near the end of the book, which was based on a real occurrence. That scene screamed to be put up on the big screen. I guess it didn't fit in with the toned-down Sullivan that the movie wanted to present.
Another large change was the removal of religion in the movie. Yes, there are scenes set in a church, and you see the Sullivans praying, but it's all on the surface. It also means the ending gets turned into something more suitable for Hollywood. It's a bit too cute for me, when I stop to think about it. I like the book's ending a little more. Seems more powerful and important, and less "Hollywood."
And if you're a comic fan, you have to appreciate the framing in a lot of the shots in this movie. There are some frames you could grab straight from a print of this movie and use as comic book panels. They're well composed, with striking visual elements, such as rain and fields of grain. The color is breathtaking.
One last warning about the movie -- if you got antsy while watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you won't want to bother with this one. It has the same deliberate pace and editing style. Scenes happen; you see them slowly start up and slowly wind down. You have to pace yourself. This isn't a popcorn movie. In fact, anything that hinted towards that in the comic seems to have been eliminated or slowed up to keep the action from rising too much. In return, the bits of action and gunfire that happen are all the more weighty. I've never seen an audience jump at a surprise moment more in the course of one movie than I did with this one. (I jumped only a couple of times, but that was tempered with a knowledge of what was coming, based on the comic.)
You'll probably get a DVD presentation of the movie by the end of the year, but it's worth seeing on the big screen for the cinematography. ROAD TO PERDITION is a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen on a much larger screen than you could fit into your home. Its story is one that should feel familiar to comics fans, albeit slightly recast into another era and with a greater importance. ROAD TO PERDITION is a good movie, and well worth watching.
SUPERPATRIOT: AMERICA'S FIGHTING FORCE
I'd be remiss if I didn't review SUPERPATRIOT: AMERICA'S FIGHTING FORCE #1 here. I've been a fan of Erik Larsen's creations since they started appearing at Image a decade ago. I can empathize greatly with writer Robert Kirkman, who writes in the text page at the end of the issue of his history with Larsen's books. I've been there with him. (Except he's a couple of years younger than me. That brings up a whole other set of issues. It's like watching baseball and realizing for the first time that you're over the hill and will never play the sport professionally. Most of those people on the screen swinging the bat are younger than you. And what are you doing? Working 9 to 5 and writing a comic column in your spare time. I need to win the lottery. Soon.)
In any case, there's a comic book to review here. S:AFF has a difficult mountain to climb. It's inevitably going to be compared to the two previous mini-series that featured the dynamic artwork of Dave Johnson. The second mini-series, in particular, was a mind-blowing experience, as Johnson pulled out all the stops in illustrating a pedal-to-the-floor action comic with plenty of Asian influences. In steps poor Cory Walker to draw the heavily armed SuperPatriot in his third mini-series. Kirkman has it easy. He's only taking over from the likes of Keith Giffen, and Tom and Mary Bierbaums. ;-)
Most importantly, Kirkman's story maintains the feel of the original creation without getting caught up in clever in-jokes that only those of us who fondly remember the original "Highbrow Universe" would understand. There are subtle references to the past, but they don't interrupt the story. Kirkman keeps it simple, restricting the cast of the book to a relatively small number. Rather than trotting out all the crazy criminals from Dragon's past on this, he focuses on one or two and then adds a bit more background to SuperPatriot's character. He doesn't waste time re-establishing SuperPatriot with clunk narration. While some might have preferred more in the way of an introduction to the character, I though Kirkman did a good job in giving us just what we needed to know as the story progressed.
The first issue is rather slight. Not much happens. Kirkman is establishing characters with this issue, and setting up some of the wackiness that is certain to happen over the next three issues.
Cory Walker's art is impressive. It's easy to read on the page. It tells the story that needs telling. The characters look like themselves and fit into their universe. It's not busy or exaggerated. He succeeds in the task of drawing a heavily armored SuperPatriot. That's something that even Larsen shies away from having to do. Dave Johnson's shadow is cast long, even all these years later.
The coloring is handled by Val Staples, Matt Tyree, Jason Keith, and Hi-Fi. (Or, maybe those three are Hi-Fi. It's tough to tell from the layout of the credits page.) They keep in style with Walker's slightly animated look, using nice large chunks of color to hint at shadows, but keeping the book from looking plain. It's not the fully sculpted style of coloring you'll see on most CrossGen books, for example. It's closer to the kind of stuff Lee Loughridge does on BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES. It fits the needs of the art.
Kirkman, himself, is credited with the lettering and does a great job. I didn't realize until after I read it that Chris Eliopoulos, Larsen's hand picked letterer since the dawn of time, didn't do it. I figured it was Eliopoulos on the computer, what with the perfect lettering in the larger balloons and occasional balloons cutting into the panel borders. It's highly reminiscent of his DEFENDERS work. The hyperactive sound effects also return. I don't know if they were done by hand or on the computer, but they perfectly fit in with the lettering that Larsen's books have always had.
So, in the end SUPERPATRIOT: AMERICA'S FIGHTING FORCE is an impressive start for a pair of creators whose work I haven't seen in the past. They maintain the style and tone of the characters, remain respectful of the material that's come before them, and craft something that I'm interesting in continuing on with.
Pia Guerra is not a "he." Guerra fits firmly into the "she" category.
I heard from family, friends, fans, DC Comics, and acquaintances. I'm here to tell you unequivocally right now that the artist of Y: THE LAST MAN, Pia Guerra, is female. Yes, there is an irony to my goofing that up in a review of a comic about the last man on earth. My apologies to Guerra for the miscue.
I'd like to say I did it on purpose to distract from the other silly "whose"/"who's" foul-up in that column, but that would be lying.
Right now, San Diego is the only convention I've committed to attending for the rest of the year. The Small Press Expo in September is a possibility, though, as is the Baltimore convention in October.